Mindful Learning Environments

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By Bobbi DePorter

Quantum Learning has coached and inspired teachers and facilitators to create mindful learning environments for the last three decades (since 1982). Our methodology includes two tenets—Everything is on Purpose and Everything Speaks—that remind us to pay attention to every detail of our learning environment because everything our students hear, see and do sends a message, either positive or negative. It’s up to us as teachers to be attentive and understand the impact of the environment we create.

These tenets and the importance of being mindful of the impact of everything around us was driven home to me when in 1979 I studied with Dr. Georgi Lozanov, a Bulgarian psychiatrist and educator. His teaching methodology was declared a “technology worth merit and further study” in 1978 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Since that time, we have been diligent in our study and application of Dr. Lozanov’s methods in our student and teacher development programs. In 2010, Dr. Lozanov invited me to submit an account of our programs and their impact on participants. My paper was included as part of Dr. Lozanov’s further research and report on the effectiveness of these methods to UNESCO’s Education for All.

One of Lozanov’s methods highlights the need for students to be relaxed, alert and curious about what’s next, and to maintain a positive attitude and an eagerness to learn. He emphasized the need for lessons to be purposefully planned and well-orchestrated to consistently get outstanding results. Everything is on purpose.

Mindfulness is about paying attention, moment by moment, to all aspects of our classroom environment, including the following:

· physical environment: seating arrangement, light, temperature, purposeful art, positive messages, visual reinforcement of content

· emotional atmosphere: positive language, joy, acknowledgment

· purposeful instruction where teachers intentionally design and deliver lessons that

* engage students and build curiosity,

* immerse them in an experience that connects to the content,

* reinforces their learning, and

* guides their review, self-reflection and celebration.

Everything Speaks

“Everything we say and do sends a message that either positively or negatively impacts the quality of learning—there is no neutral. Whether it’s actions, interactions, body language, quality and formatting of handouts, posters, display of student work, room arrangement, teacher’s manner of dress—everything speaks. Everything that takes place in the classroom sends a message, but only students can decide what the message is and what it means to them. Knowledge of everything speaks means we view the classroom and all that’s in it with consideration of what message it sends.” (Excerpt: Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System, p. 20)

Everything is on Purpose

Being deliberate in what you say and do leads to achieving desired outcomes. Because everything speaks, we must be very purposeful about what we do and say. Think What is my desired outcome? and make choices that propel learners to that outcome. Whether we are choosing an instructional strategy or placing posters on the walls, we must be consciously intentional—everything we do is on purpose. This focus encourages a greater awareness of all the variables that influence learning. Every aspect of the environment needs to be purposefully designed with the student in mind, and with what research supports. The environment must not distract from the learning process. We are purposeful with our planning and actions to orchestrate successful learning.” (Excerpt: Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System p. 102)

Lozanov believed there was no neutral, only positive or negative. Teachers have the responsibility of making a concerted effort to create as many positives as possible in a comfortable, safe, and fun learning environment.” (Excerpt: Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System, p. 88) At Quantum Learning we believe that those comfortable, safe and fun learning environments referred to by Georgi Lozanov are what effective teaching and learning are all about. And we know from our 35 years of inspiring and teaching educators to create them that mindful learning environments work!